“Let the hours roll by
Doing nothing for the fun
A little taste of the good life
Whether right or wrong, makes us want to stay, stay, stay, for awhile”
Dave Matthews Band
When I first started planning my 6-month sabbatical, I decided that I wanted to spend more time in fewer places. To travel for so long jumping from place to place is exhausting and quite expensive. The process of packing and unpacking every few days would also get pretty annoying pretty quickly.
I’ve never traveled this way before. I usually plan my vacations like most people where I plan a few days in a bunch of different locations trying to see as much as I can in as short a period of time as is reasonably possible. But after this experience, I don’t think I’m going to travel like that anymore. Instead, I’m just going to pick a city and spend my vacation in one place. Here’s why I’ve become a huge advocate for more immersive travel experiences:
Vacations are supposed to be relaxing! When you are constantly on the go, your relaxing vacation starts to feel more like work. Then, you get home from your trip and you feel like you need a vacation from your vacation!
Some people prefer to go to a beach resort for this exact reason. Sometimes you just want to relax and spend a week with margaritas in hand while working on your tan. But beach resorts aren’t the only places you can relax. You can relax while wandering the canals in Amsterdam. You can relax sitting at a café in Barcelona. My point is that you don’t have to go to a beach to relax and unwind and a more immersive itinerary lets you do that, regardless of whether there’s a beach or not.
Besides being a more relaxed experience, spending your entire vacation in one place lets you get to know a city on a deeper level. Think about the place where you live. Would somebody really understand what your city is all about based on visiting the top 5 most popular tourist sites?
I live in Philadelphia and most tourists spend their time visiting Old City and Independence National Park. They might venture down to some of the city’s great art museums too. And of course, they’d go down to Center City and walk through Rittenhouse Square.
But there’s so much more to see in Philadelphia. There are so many great neighborhoods to visit. There is Fairmount Park. There’s some fun suburban areas that are worth a visit. There are just so many other things to do that would give a tourist a more authentic experience.
Of course, some of this depends on what you want to get out of your experience. If your sole objective for visiting Philly is to see the historical sites, then, yes, you can probably do that in a couple of days and then move on to the next place. For me, I want to go a bit deeper and explore the energy and the vibe of each place I visit. And for that, I think you need more time.
Ever wonder what it’s like to live in another country? If you quickly pass through for a couple of days, you won’t have any idea what that’s like. However, if you stay for a while, you get a little taste of what it’s like to live abroad. When you visit somewhere for an extended period of time, there’s less pressure to constantly be doing something or seeing something. So, if you wake up and don’t want to go to a museum, that’s ok. You can just relax at your home away from home for a few hours.
I write often about how I used credit card and hotel rewards points to earn free stays in hotels. This is a huge benefit of signing up for and using credit cards; however, hotels don’t usually feel like home. Plus, if you stay for a longer period of time, it’s hard to get all the nights for free.
Here’s where a stay in an Airbnb is a really nice alternative. When you rent an apartment, it does feel more like home. You can cook a meal. You can have breakfast in bed. You can have a day where you just lounge around. Since you’re staying for a while, you don’t have to rush and you can allow yourself to feel right at home.
Becoming a “Regular”
You’re traveling around and you find the perfect little café down some random street in some random neighborhood in Madrid. You become fast friends with your server and the local couple sitting next to you. It’s one of those perfect vacation moments. Sadly, you’re leaving tomorrow and you may never come back to that spot and you’ll likely never see your new friends again. What a pity!
When you stay in a place for a little while, you can go back there as often as you like. And maybe you will meet up with your new friends for a coffee in a few days. Or maybe you’ll meet some locals who love the location just as much as you do. The list of possibilities is endless but only if you allow yourself the time to have those experiences. For me, becoming a regular in my favorite café/bar/restaurant while I travel is one of the more unique travel experiences you can have.
There are countless ways that you can meet people when you travel. You can engage in social media, take a city walking tour, or simply talk to the people sitting next to you while you’re having your morning coffee (crazy idea, I know). Again, if you’re only in town for a couple of days, building meaningful friendships in such a short time is a difficult thing to do. Further, people may be more hesitant to commit any significant amount of time to you if they know you’re leaving the next day. But over time, you can build some terrific friendships which, thanks in large part to social media, can really last a lifetime! Plus, as an added benefit, making some new friends will help you find some fun new places that you may not have visited on your own. There’s nothing better than great local knowledge to help you find a city’s hidden gems.
Stay for a While
The last few months have really changed my view on vacation planning. I’m sure at some point I’ll take another trip where I jump around a little bit. However, whenever it’s possible, I think I’d much prefer to stay in one place and do my best to immerse myself in a new place. Plus, I’m still fairly committed to the idea of getting a dog. If I’m staying in one place for a little while, it becomes much more feasible to bring along my new furry friend… which also makes it easier to meet new people.